Friday, June 19, 2015

Felix the Cat Sows some Wild Oats

For some reason, Felix the Cat is associated with our next extra Fleischer short called Feline Follies.  The black cat in this particular short is called "Master Tom" and looks more like a cat, and less like a slightly tweaked version of Disney's Mickey Mouse.  And the story's way way less complicated than your typical Felix the Cat short.  In Feline Follies, there's no bad guys to foil with ingenuity.  It's just a cat trying to get by in this crazy world, and maybe make friends with a lady cat.  Frankly, it's all a bit tawdry, and I'm not even that much of a Felix the Cat aficionado.  I mean, I just found out that Jack Mercer did the voice of Felix!  Some movie critic I am!  Here's the link again to that video on YouTube of Jack Mercer on the old "To Tell the Truth" show... just watched Mel Blanc on Letterman.  Of course, Letterman was a bit younger, and still in awe of other people back then.
Anyway, back to the instant case.  Ah, courtship.  Felix... I mean, "Master Tom" hears a meowing in the distance, so he runs into said distance, thereby causing a great deal of heartache for the inbetweeners.  But before that, his tail turns into a question mark, so there's a little of the ol' Felix ingenuity there after all.
Next scene: Master Tom meets up with Betty White... I mean, "Kitty White" and the courtship begins, right after the initial shock.  Might be a male cat in disguise or something!  Nope.  Once the confusion ends, the courtship begins.  Master Tom plucks the closest flower from the ground and gives it to Kitty White.  Kitty White is impressed, and the flirtations continue.  For some reason, that never works for me.  I always have to get flowers from the store.
Oh, but this is no time for a booty call!  The two interested parties must go to their respective corners and regroup later.  The filmmakers were apparently big fans of the "iris out" to the next scene, so we'll be seeing much, much more of this cross-fade by the time we get to the end of the picture.  And so, Master Tom gets all cleaned up, and gets ready to go out on a date.  We see some of the Felix ingenuity to come when Tom brushes his teeth with his tail.  Gee, my cat never lets me try that with its tail...  Meanwhile, the mice prepare for his departure.  In this household, they have two holes in the floor as opposed to the traditional hole in the wall at floor level.
Next scene: the proverbial back fence, where Master Tom gives Kitty White a kiss, and says "I've only got nine lives to live - an' I'll live them all for you!"  Oh, this guy's good.  So I guess it's YOLN instead of YOLO.  Modern love is a strain, Pete, no doubt about it.  Next scene: a little bit of animation that I like.  Why isn't this going viral?  We see eleven people in the buildings opposite of this romantic scene, all yelling for Master Tom to cut out that racquet, of course.  One of these jerks beans Tom with a boot and he falls off the fence.  No worse for the wear, Tom plans his next meeting with Kitty White.  "Tomorrow night at the ash can!" he says.  And away they both run, followed by that damn iris out again.  Boy, they're using that a lot!!!
Next scene: the ash can proper... okay, "Garbage" can, if you're being literal about it.  Tom's got a banjo and waits for Kitty to arrive.  Kitty White eventually shows up, spots his banjo and says "Shoot something lively!"  ...I think that means play a hot tune.  I'm not up on my teens-era lingo.  And so, shoot something lively he does.  Well, even though we can't hear it, it must be something lively, because Kitty White starts dancing around, pre-Rotoscope.  Not bad!
Meanwhile, the mice get more bold.  They go for the chicken on the wall... or maybe it's a turkey, who knows.  Out of convenience, everything the mice need is right there in one room.  No time for icebox subtleties here!  This is really really really old school filmmaking, like when Buster Keaton was making shorts with Fatty Arbuckle that they'd shoot on a Sunday afternoon in one studio.  Of course, the mice fancy themselves to be food thief artisans, so they play with their food a little bit before scarfing it down.  One mouse juggles the chickens' drumsticks.  Must be a chicken, or maybe a Cornish game hen; you know, something with small drumsticks.  Still... did they really have to smash that plate?
And then, back to the dancing.  And then... back to the mice.  I don't know what horrible thing this says about me psychologically, but I think this is my favourite scene: a mouse drinks a whole bottle of milk which turns him white.  He turns and takes his bow in front of his fellow mice who applaud.
Anyway, back to the cats.  Again, more Felix ingenuity: Tom makes some notes appear from his banjo.  The cats take their respective notes... the ones of their opposite fur color (this way, they stand out better)... and they ride them around like hand-powered go-carts.  Now, if you don't find that the least bit fanciful, well... you're just being a Contrarian on purpose.  Stop it.  Now.
ACT THREE - Things turn ugly for Master Tom.  It's time to pay the price for abandoning his post at the house, and not catching them mouse... mice.  Damn.  Almost had a rhyme there.  But like a real cat just might do, Tom comes home to the trashed house, and goes right to a nice place to get some sleep.  LOL!  What... him worry?  I don't think so.  Iris out.  Next scene: back to the room!  I guess there's no need for a black title card with words on it to advance the plot at this point.  The lady of the house returns, and visually inspects the damage.  We can tell from the dashed lines shooting out of her eyes.  She then eyes the cat, looks at Tom angrily for about a second or two, then grabs him by the tail and throws him out!  Cold-blooded.  Dayamn.  Tom shrugs his shoulders and tries to figure out what he did wrong.  The lady chucks a pan at Tom... or a boot, I couldn't tell.  It went by too fast.  Needles to say, Tom high-tails it to that darn horizon again for what seems like the umpteenth time.
No iris out to the next scene!  Game-changing.  And so, Tom heads over to Kitty White's place.  Some of you can probably guess what's coming because she's sewing some garments.  Tom finally arrives, looking downbeat.  He's just about to explain his predicament to Kitty, that he got kicked out of his mom's basement... I mean, his human has kicked him out, when SUDDENLY... Horror of horrors!  Yup, Tom looks in horror to find that Kitty White has had a litter of little Toms.  They're all chips off of the old man's block.  None of this miscegenation like a couple of Warner Brothers cartoons I could name... if I could just think of the titles.  Ah yes!  The ending of Nasty Quacks has at least some genetic variety!  ... just found that other one, and I'm going to give credit to the blog that's got it, blow by blow.  It's called Johnny Smith and Poker-Huntas, which... must be a pun on something from the era.  Always with the puns... and yes, I know it's Pocahontas, so don't message me.  Also, Mel Blanc taking over as Egg-Head?  Seems wrong to me.
Okay, here's an example with no genetic variety, but perhaps for good reason.  As you all know, the ending of The Wabbit Who Came to Supper ends with Elmer Fudd holding a giant Easter egg, with dozens of tiny Bugs Bunny clones climbing out of it.  Trust me, you don't even wanna know.  Oh, can't anything just be funny anymore?  There's also the ending of the politically incorrect A Feather in His Hare.  Or, maybe it's a good thing.  It may be the first instance of a nerdy Indian cartoon character... probably the last.  Injun Joe from Wagon Heels was the ultimate badass... "Him Screwball!"  Sorry, love that clip.  That's all the examples I can think of... there's also the end of Northwest Hounded Police, but that's well after all the babies have all grown up and joined the Mounties.  I believe this is what we call scope creep, so let's just get back to the instant case.  No, the ending of Feline Follies is, of course, more like the plot arc of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  I probably don't have to explain why, but these days, when anyone talks about that movie, all they say is gosh, but Roy Neary is a bad father!  Well, that's what Tom is, too, because after seeing the spectre of responsibility laid before him, he exits Stage Left, and runs and runs and runs just as fast as he bloody well can, thereby stretching the animation budget on backgrounds for the whole picture.  After running so far for so long, Tom stops at a gas pipe.  In the background, we see a gas facility, and yup... perhaps you've heard the expression, "take the gas pipe," especially if you've seen a couple Stooge shorts, or one uncrucial scene from Radio Days.  And so, Tom puts his mouth on the gas pipe, but for the kids' sake, we're spared the rest... what's the matter?  Cat got your tongue?

-so sayeth The Movie Maven Hooligan

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